For the holiday, I had planned to make it a very Hong Kong Christmas or a very Kung Fu Christmas. You know, the kind you imagine you would be having if Quentin Tarantino was your pal. However, I did not manage my Netflix queue well enough and Infernal Affairs didn't arrive until Saturday (Martin Scorsese remade the story in The Departed). And I couldn't get ChungKing Express to work because my VCR is currently disabled, and I only have that on tape). What I really wanted for my entertainment was a whole lot of violence, and well, to be honest, certain sections of Asia do violence really well (though Wong Kar Wai's film is not violent at all but I have a thing for Tony Leung Chiu Wai).
Anyway, my desire for violence this holiday was not due to the stress of the season nor because of family (didn't visit them). So, here starts a rambling essay about enjoying violence.
I restarted reading a manga called Berserk by Kentaro Miura and put out by Dark Horse Comics. Miura started the series in 1990, and it's been running ever since. I had watched the anime series which was obviously incomplete but, as my friend Alex has said, had an oddly compelling storyline, much different from your usual Japanese fantasy plot.
Imagine if Clive Barker wrote Conan the Barbarian and Hieronymous Bosch and H. R. Giger penciled it -- plus the gender politics of a Frank Frazetta painting. The story focuses on Guts (or Gutsu or Gatts) who is the Berserker in question, wielding a ridiculously big sword that's as wide as an elephant's thigh. The story is also ridiculously violent and dark. It has all the markings of a very guilty pleasure. Oh yeah, in typical manga fashion, there is also a cute elfin sidekick who makes comments about how he's there to "lighten" the mood.
What attracts me to these violent media? I do not think violence of any sort, short of self-defense, to be conscionable. I step over a bug on the sidewalk (and I have a strict rule regarding insects in the house that I'll do my best to put them outside unless they have touched my face or been on my bed -- both of which carries a death sentence -- and, believe me, having grown up in Georgia where our bugs could eat everyone else's bugs, this is a very generous rule).
I like violent video games -- decapitating your opponents in pixels is just so relaxing! Of course, I don't like all violence in media. Maybe it's a gendered thing, but guns bore me. When I used to play Doom, I loved to use the chain saw. Torture porn movies also bore me. Violence on par of Frank Miller's more recent fare (300, Sin City) seems silly . Hmm, maybe that's it. I only like violence that doesn't take itself too seriously (which is a sick contradiction, I know).
Which brings me back to Berserk. Most of what I have mentioned that I don't like is in full flower in this manga. I'll have to think some more on this. Stay tuned for In Praise of Violence II (or, the deathbed retraction, either one).